Guess Who Isn’t Running from Community Organizing?
Barack Obama, speaking about Father’s Day from the pulpit today at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, had this to say about its 86-year-old retiring Bishop Arthur M. Brazier, photographed above:
Here at Apostolic, you are blessed to worship in a house that has been founded on the rock of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. But it is also built on another rock, another foundation – and that rock is Bishop Arthur Brazier. In forty-eight years, he has built this congregation from just a few hundred to more than 20,000 strong – a congregation that, because of his leadership, has braved the fierce winds and heavy rains of violence and poverty; joblessness and hopelessness. Because of his work and his ministry, there are more graduates and fewer gang members in the neighborhoods surrounding this church. There are more homes and fewer homeless. There is more community and less chaos because Bishop Brazier continued the march for justice that he began by Dr. King’s side all those years ago. He is the reason this house has stood tall for half a century. And on this Father’s Day, it must make him proud to know that the man now charged with keeping its foundation strong is his son and your new pastor, Reverend Byron Brazier.
As the Chicago Tribune reported on June 1, Bishop Brazier got his start at community organizing with… guess who?
As his church grew in the 1960s, Brazier became more deeply involved in community activism and civil rights, especially after meeting community organizer Saul Alinsky. He became founding president of The Woodlawn Organization, a coalition that successfully fought against the expansion of the University of Chicago in 1963. Through the organization, Brazier worked to fight gang violence and crime in the neighborhood by setting up programs for rival members.
After he met King in 1966, the two men protested together against segregated housing and schools. In response, Brazier received threats on his life and his Apostolic Church received bomb threats.
“I feel proud and happy that we didn’t just sit around and wring our hands about these problems. We were able to see beyond the four walls of the church and we did something,” he said.
I point that out because it’s interesting, and also to correct any “Chicken Little” impressions that I’ve seen in the comments section worrying about whether the censorship over at the Ex-Field might have been directed from a certain national political campaign. It most certainly did not. And if anyone tries to give you that impression, they’d be actively sabotaging that campaign’s chosen message. As you can see from the above quotes, at least one presidential candidate in the US – as recently as today - has no fear of embracing community organizing and association with those that pioneered the art form.